You don’t have to be a history buff to enjoy a great tale of time’s past. The Alabama Gulf Coast is steeped in history and lore. History in Gulf Shores, Orange Beach and the surrounding areas boasts wartime forts, antebellum homes, trains, historic hospitals and so much more.
Military History in Gulf Shores, Alabama
The beachside cities of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach were not always a haven for vacationers. In fact, just a few hundred years ago, you could hear the thundering sound of cannon fire as soldiers defended Mobile Bay at Fort Morgan. Located on the Fort Morgan Peninsula, just outside of Gulf Shores, AL, historic Fort Morgan is a masonry fort built between 1819 and 1834. The fort and its soldiers guarded the mouth of Mobile Bay. The fort saw the majority of its action during the Civil War and the Battle of Mobile Bay in 1864. It’s also the site of Admiral David Farragut’s historic declaration, “Damn the torpedoes. Full speed ahead!”
Fort Morgan routinely hosts guided tours, some with guides dressed in period clothing. An onsite museum displays the evolution of the U.S. Army through various time periods, as well. The fort is a great place to spend the day, and if you love to snap great photos, you won’t be disappointed! When you want to explore history in Gulf Shores, Fort Morgan may very well be the most popular spot to do so!
110 Alabama 180, Gulf Shores, AL
Open daily, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Closed New Year’s Day, Thanksgiving Day and the day after, Dec. 25 and 26)
Admission: $7 for adults, $5 for seniors and $4 for children ages 6-12
Take the Mobile Bay Ferry from Fort Morgan to Dauphin Island where you’ll find Fort Gaines. This historic military installation also played a role in the Battle of Mobile Bay. The fort has guarded the eastern tip of Dauphin Island for more than 150 years. Spend an afternoon exploring the grounds, including cannons, blacksmith shop and kitchens. The blacksmith shop is open for demonstrations on various days of the week. Be sure to call ahead for the most current dates and times.
51 Beinville Blvd., Dauphin Island, AL
Open daily, 9 a.m. – 5 p.m. (Close Thanksgiving, Dec. 25 and 26)
Admission: $8 (ages 13 and older), $4 (ages 5-12)
Just a short drive from Gulf Shores is the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park. Recognized as America’s Most Unique Military Attraction, it’s a great spot to stop and stretch your legs on your way to your Gulf Shores vacation rental. The USS Alabama played an important part in WWII, serving the Pacific fleet in 1943 and fighting in major battles, including the one at Okinawa. Also at the park is the USS Submarine Drum. This historic submarine sank 15 Japanese ships during WWII.
USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park
2703 Battleship Pkwy, Mobile, AL
April to September, 8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
October to March, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Admission: $15 (ages 12 and older), $6 (ages 6-11)
More History near Gulf Shores
Just outside of Gulf Shores in nearby Bon Secour, you’ll find the Swift-Coles Historic Home. The circa 1882 home is 6,000 square feet and located on the beautiful Bon Secour River under 120-year-old live oak trees. The home originally housed Charles and Susan Swift and their 11 children. In 2009, the home was opened to the public and listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Guided tours are available on Tuesdays and Fridays, and you never know if a spirit or two may decide to be a part of your tour!
17424 Swift-Coles Lane, Bon Secour, AL
Open Tuesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Admission: $10 (cash only)
Take a drive to nearby Foley, AL for a step back in time like no other. If you’re interested in medical history, you can’t miss a stop at the Holmes Medical Museum. The site is actually Baldwin County’s first hospital which was open from 1936 to 1958. The museum remains much the same as it was when it treated its last patient in 1958. In fact, the majority of the medical equipment on display are the actual artifacts from the hospital. The museum includes an operating room, patient rooms, X-ray and pharmacy. Self-guided tours are available, but some visitors say a patient or two from yesteryear may join you on your tour!
Holmes Medical Museum
111 W. Laurel Ave., Foley, AL
Open Monday to Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
At one time, Foley was a bustling railroad town. Train enthusiasts will enjoy a visit to the Foley Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit. The museum is located in the former Louisville and Nashville railroad station, built in 1909. The railroad played a major role in the prosperity of the entire area, including Gulf Shores and Orange Beach. Model trains are in operation on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.
Foley Railroad Museum and Model Train Exhibit
125 E. Laurel Ave., Foley, AL
Archives open Monday to Friday, 10 a.m. – 3 p.m.
Model train exhibit open Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
A Weekend of History in Gulf Shores
Whether you want to include a little history or a lot in your Gulf Shores vacation, with so many unique historical sites in and around Gulf Shores, you’ll have plenty of options. Cooler temperatures in the fall make it the ideal time to explore the Alabama Gulf Coast. Make reservations at your favorite Gulf Shores condo or Fort Morgan beach house and let the journey back in time begin!